TALLAHASSEE (NSF) – Calling it “a jaw-dropping gambling expansion,” state officials asked Friday for a full-court rehearing of an appellate decision that ordered gambling regulators to allow a North Florida horse track to have slot machines.READ MORE: Parental Rights Bill Sent To Florida Governor Ron DeSantis
Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawyers filed the request for rehearing with the 1st District Court of Appeal on behalf of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which rejected Gretna Racing’s application for slot machines nearly two years ago.
“If left uncorrected, the decision would effect a widespread expansion of gambling that the Legislature never intended,” Solicitor General Allen Winsor and Jonathan Glogau, Bondi’s chief of complex litigation, wrote in the 11-page filing.
The Gretna case centered on a provision of a 2009 Florida law that allows counties to have slot machines if voters approve them locally. The law, which went into effect the following year, was an expansion of a 2004 voter-approved constitutional amendment that authorized slot machines at seven existing horse and dog tracks and jai-alai frontons in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
The 2009 law was part of a comprehensive gambling bill that accompanied a $1 billion, 20-year deal between the state and the Seminole Tribe that included a provision giving the tribe exclusive rights to operate banked card games, including blackjack. The agreement, called a compact, allows the tribe to stop payments if pari-mutuels outside of Broward and Miami-Dade counties start operating the lucrative slot machines.READ MORE: Coral Gables Man Refuses To Sell Family House Swallowed By Massive Development
A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal heard the Gretna case and issued a 2-1 ruling on May 29. The ruling rejected the state’s argument that the Legislature must give counties permission to hold referendums to authorize slots, but the ruling also asked the Supreme Court to review the issue.
The state’s request Friday asks that the full appeals court rehear the case, which is known as seeking an “en banc” hearing.
Voters in six counties — including Gadsden, where the Gretna track is located — have approved referendums allowing slots at local pari-mutuels. The Palm Beach Kennel Club is the only other facility that had applied for and been refused a slots license.
“According to the panel majority, the Legislature intended to allow this jaw-dropping gambling expansion without any further action by the Florida Legislature. This is so, the panel majority concluded, even though the language at issue was adopted as part of the same legislative enactment that approved the Seminole compact … meaning that in one vote, legislators approved the compact and ‘eliminate[d] the state’s control over its continued entitlement to a substantial amount of revenue from the Seminole Tribe,’ ” Bondi’s lawyers wrote. “The panel majority’s opinion is wrong.”
The Gretna track has a history of controversy. It is believed to be the first facility in the country to receive a pari-mutuel license for rodeo-style barrel racing, something a court later decided state regulators had granted in error.MORE NEWS: COVID-19 Kills Another 290 Floridians
The News Service of Florida’s Dara Kam contributed to this report.